Inside the Studio

Back to Nature Showdown Winner, Dominique Vangilbergen

Where are you from?
I’m from Belgium, but I’ve been traveling around Europe for a few years.

Favorite material to work with?
Paper, a ballpoint pen, and my glasses.

How many years as an artist?
Don’t remind me, not enough.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
One of the first times I showed my work in public, a man came up to me and said, “You have a talent, but now it’s time to do something with it.”

Where is your studio?
I’ve been in Berlin now for a year. My studio is in an industrial zone with big beautiful factory buildings where you can smell the city. Before that, I had a little studio in the South of France, not so far from Avignon, which was also nice. There, I was surrounded by lavender fields and goats. How things can change in life.

Art school or self-taught?
Belgium’s art schools. They really know what they are doing there. It’s so important for a student to meet interesting and motivational tutors who teach you how to look at things, and offer wise words that you sometimes only come to understand many years later.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
Vegan chef de cuisine by day, super-hero by night.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
Music is very important to me, it can be soft or loud. Mostly, when I’m working on a big drawing, which takes a few weeks or so, I play the same track on a loop. It works a bit like a mantra or a yoga session, I suppose. And afterwards, when I’m not satisfied, I can always blame it on the music. I also have a drum kit in my studio with headphones linked to my iPhone. After a few hours of intense concentration, I chill out by drumming along to Queens of the Stone Age. That helps.

Where can we find you outside of the studio?
In the green spaces of Berlin in the company of my dog.

What’s around the corner from your place?
A bakery where you can buy 2 croissants for 1 euro and they’re not too bad, either.

What do you collect?
To an outsider it would look like I’m collecting blue ballpoint pens. Otherwise, I prefer to uncollect. The more stuff you have, the more you have to move.

Favorite contemporary artist?
Hieronymus Bosch. You can’t get more contemporary than that.

Who are your favorite writers?
Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
John Irving, Until I found you
Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Difficult, but I guess it would have to be either Jean Fouquet’s “Virgin and Child” or Goya’s complete engravings.

Use anything other than paint?
Yes, everything water-based, and I love to work with charcoal.

Is painting dead?
How could it be? It’s one of the purest forms of expression there is. It will always survive.